Hillary Clinton called it "strange" and "deeply troubling" that FBI Director James Comey released a letter to Congress regarding new emails under review by his agency 11 days before the Nov. 8 election, the latest in a series of aggressive responses by her campaign.
"It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election" because "voters deserve to get full and complete facts," Clinton said at a campaign rally in Daytona Beach, FL. "If you’re like me, you probably have a few questions about it," she said, arguing the letter's lack of detail allows Republicans to politicize it.
"Donald Trump is already making up lies about this. He is doing his best to confuse, mislead and discourage the American people. I think it's time for Donald Trump to stop fear mongering, to stop disgracing himself, to stop attacking our democracy," she said. "We can't let him get away with this, can we?"
The comments, which came at the beginning of her speech, echoed those of her top campaign officials in an earlier conference call with reporters. The officials said Comey’s letter is so vague it has allowed Republicans to “extort and exaggerate” about her private email server. They all pressed Comey to release more information. "Put it all out on the table, right?" she said.
In a Friday letter to the chairmen of several congressional committees, Comey said that, in the course of a separate investigation, officials uncovered more emails that “appear to be pertinent” but “may or may not be significant.” Subsequent reports said the emails appear to come from a laptop used jointly by former congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide. Weiner is under investigation in a separate case involving sexting with a minor. That raises questions about whether Clinton’s emails are even at issue in the review.
“No one can separate what is true from what is not because Comey has not been forthcoming with the facts,” Clinton campaign manager John Podesta said in the Saturday conference call, accusing Comey of providing “selective information.”
“There’s no evidence of wrongdoing, no charge of wrongdoing, no indication that this is even about Hillary,” Podesta said. “It’s hard to see how this amounts to anything, and we’re not going to be distracted.”
In the call, Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook blamed Comey for what they characterized as an “extraordinary step” in releasing the letter to members of Congress. It’s possible, they said, that most or all of the emails in question are just duplicates of others already reviewed by the FBI.
“He owes the public the full story, or else he should not have cracked open this door in the first place,” Mook said.
Podesta called the letter “long on innuendo and short on facts.” Clinton is also due on Saturday to attend a get-out-the-vote event in Miami with music stars Jennifer Lopez, Gente de Zona and DJ Extreme.
Republicans pounced almost immediately after the letter was disclosed — including Trump, who declared her email woes worse than Watergate and, with no basis, suggested the development might cause the FBI to reverse its previous decision not to pursue criminal charges. “Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have not seen before,” Trump said at a Friday rally in New Hampshire. On the FBI, he said: “I think they’re gonna right the ship.”
Previously, Comey testified that no reasonable prosecutor would have brought charges against Clinton, even as he said she had been “extremely careless” in handling classified information.
Podesta noted that congressional Republicans, not the FBI director, are now characterizing the review of the new emails as a reopening of the original email probe, something it is not. “This is exactly the problem that Director Comey has created,” Podesta said. “He’s allowed partisans to extort and exaggerate.”
Comey has said nothing publicly, though later Friday he sent a letter to FBI employees, obtained by The Washington Post, seeking to explain his decision to drop the letter days before a presidential election. Comey said that although he felt obligated to "supplement the record" in light of the new emails, "I don't want to create a misleading impression."
"In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it," said Comey, according to the note to employees.
Yet Comey is coming under intense pressure to provide more information given the proximity to the election, including whether Clinton’s emails are at issue. He's also been in the crosshairs of congressional Republicans vowing to pursue an investigation of his investigation. Long-standing Justice Department protocol discourages public comments on ongoing investigations as well as steering clear of anything that could influence elections.
For that reason, Attorney General Loretta Lynch made clear Saturday morning that she had objected to the decision. A second federal official familiar with Comey's decision said Saturday that the FBI director considered the attorney general's advice during a spirited discussion of the matter Thursday and early Friday but felt compelled to act.
In a sign of the level of concern in the Clinton campaign, the Democratic nominee also held a brief news conference after a campaign stop in Iowa hours after news of the letter broke on Friday. “The American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately," Clinton said. “I’m confident, whatever they are, will not change the conclusion reached in July," she said.